A night show of Rangoon, and I had had a trying, long day. I walked into the cinema – Escape – fearing I might nod off pretty soon, and desperately downed three cups of coffee.
Perhaps it was the coffee, or more likely perhaps, it was Rangoon. Sleep wasn’t so pressing after all. For me, and the others at the hall, Rangoon was engaging and interesting. Enough drama, thrills and twists to last the 127 minute running time, and lot more to spare.
Rangoon is written and directed by Rajkumar Periasamy, a former associate of AR Murugadoss.
This is the second Rangoon I’ve seen this year, and of the two, the Tamil one’s a better film – despite Kangana Ranaut trying her bloody-hell-best to liven up the Hindi one.
A Tamil family in Myanmar – one of the many colonial-era immigrants – has to uproot itself and move. Back to a homeland none of them has ever seen before, to become refugees in a culture and land of one’s ancestors. This means breaking ties, and forming new ones – for little Venkatesh. Life happens, and so does death. Venkatesh grows up, and we get the first glimpse of Gautham Karthik’s heavily browned-up face.
Venkatesh gets a job; the family believes their worst is behind them. He saves the boss’s life, his business, and is now given a greater responsibility – managing a front business while also assisting in gold smuggling. Even as the boss’s assistant is increasingly jealous at the upstart’s progress. Romance is also afoot. Venkatesh meets Natasha, and without too many creepy interludes and questionable stalking, the two of them get together.
Everything is set up for a great conflict in the second act. And sure enough, disaster.
Venkat and his friends are asked to travel to Rangoon, to set up a smuggling deal for the boss, who hopes to pay back his loans and win the trust of the gold-jeweller’s union. However, the money they’ve earned goes missing, and Venkat and gang have to find other ways of earning back the money and save their boss. They decide the kidnap the son of a hotelier known to help with money laundering. Even as the police are on their tracks.
The kidnap goes awry, the three fall deeper into the hole. But there’s more. Betrayal. Deception. Danger. Denouement.
By this time, the entire hall is silent, watching the film unfold with rapt attention. Clearly, the twist is truly surprising, and none of us had managed to figure it out. Enough red herrings and MacGuffins, in a generally well-written film.
And, well written it is.
Siddique – who plays Seeya/Gunaseelan – is every bit the genial, avuncular boss we believe him to be. His moment of truth, and his motivations and incentives, are every bit believable and natural. We get his motivation almost towards the end, almost as a throw-away. If we had this information a little earlier, would we have all the pieces we needed to figure the story out on our own?
The same is true of the other characters – Kumaran, Tip-Top, Natasha, Indrani, Kesavan, and Manivannan.
Gautham Karthik as Venkatesh seems to have come back from the disaster that was Muthuramalingam. A well-written character, Gautham manages to make it even better. There’s just about everything going for him in the role, except the make-up artist. Why, why, oh why? Why do we need that pancake-heavy, greasy, brown face paint? Is there a rule in Tamil cinema that says subaltern characters need to be dark-skinned? What sort of underhanded racism, colourism is that?
Especially given that the other protagonists, actors, characters seem au naturel, and set up against a mildly-pinked-up Sana – who plays Natasha – the make-up is all the more jarring. When the camera closes in on Gautham, we can almost count the layers of paint on him. That he manages to register the character’s thoughts, emotions, pain and pleasure – despite being a poorly made-up star (in a well-made film) – is remarkable achievement, indeed.
The Rangoon review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.